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Hello again, CyclingTips readers!
The opening weekend of the Classics has been and gone, and it feels good, doesn’t it? After a couple of months of racing in the heat of Australia and the deserts of the Middle East, racing has returned to its European heartlands and the countdown to the Monuments can begin in earnest.
That’s not the only exciting racing that’s going on, of course – in addition to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, there’s also the Track Worlds underway… and yeah, the small matter of coronavirus.
All that and more below in today’s Daily News Digest.
Until next time, readers.
| Kasper Asgreen muscles to Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne win
Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step) held off a charging peloton to take a solo victory at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday, getting his powerhouse team’s spring campaign off to a promising start.
The main field, led by Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates), closed within 50 meters at the finish line, but could not overhaul Asgreen.
| Gianni Moscon in trouble again
Arguably the biggest story to come from Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne wasn’t Kasper Asgreen’s monster of a ride, but an event 65km out from the finish. After tangling in a crash that brought down a number of riders, Gianni Moscon (Ineos) was disqualified for “aggressive and unsporting behaviour” after throwing a bike at another rider.
It’s far from the first time that the Italian has landed himself in trouble. He was disqualified from the 2018 Tour de France for punching another rider, disqualified at the 2017 World Championships for holding onto his team’s car, suspended by his team in 2017 for racial abuse directed at Kevin Reza, and later the same year accused of causing a teammate of Reza’s – Sebastien Reichenbach – to crash, breaking his hip and elbow.
Ineos’ director Gabriel Rasch said that the latest incident is “not acceptable”, and that the team’s focus would be on “supporting him … and doing the right things so it doesn’t happen again” – to which we say, “good luck with that”.
| Annemiek van Vleuten shows superiority at Omloop-Het Nieuwsblad
Reigning world champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) started her 2020 season the way that she finished it: winning. In a rain-lashed Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, van Vleuten attacked on the fabled Muur van Geraardsbergen and rode the 17km to the finish line solo, holding off a select chase group.
Marta Bastianelli (Ale BTC Ljubljana) sprinted from a small group behind to take second, just ahead of Floortje Mackaij (Sunweb) and Chantal Van den Broek-Blaak (Boels-Dolmans).
| Jasper Stuyven sprints to Omloop-Het Nieuwsblad win
In the mens’ race, the decisive moment of the race was likewise on the Muur van Geraardsbergen. This time, it was Trek-Segafredo’s Jasper Stuyven that used the cobbled climb as a springboard to the win, splitting up a seven-rider strong front group and whittling it down to three: Stuyven, Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck-Quickstep) and Soren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb).
Stuyven led into the final corner and led Lampaert toward the barriers as the sprint opened up. Lampaert knew it wasn’t to be at 50 meters to go, shaking his head as Stuyven put his hands in the air.
| Lorena Wiebes notches first win of 2020 at Omloop van het Hageland
After a turbulent off-season marked by a messy contract dispute with her Parkhotel-Valkenburg team, Lorena Wiebes has notched up her first win of 2020 at Omloop van het Hageland.
In second place for the second day running was Marta Bastianelli, with Emma Cecilie Norsgaard of Bigla-Katusha rounding out the podium.
| Mathieu van der Poel’s tilt at Strade Bianche in doubt
Mathieu van der Poel’s participation at Strade Bianche next weekend is in doubt, with the flu that kept him out of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad still dragging on. Van der Poel isn’t yet back on the bike following his sickness, and also missed a Tour of Flanders course recon.
Strade Bianche itself, meanwhile, is also up in the air as a result of the worsening situation with coronavirus in Italy. On which note…
| Coronavirus and the UAE Tour
After the cancellation of the UAE Tour last week amid coronavirus fears, the riders and media associated with the race have (mostly) been cleared to fly home. There are reportedly still three teams under quarantine – Groupama-FDJ, Cofidis and Gazprom. Despite testing negative to coronavirus, these riders are apparently on the same floor as confirmed cases, and have to wait a day or two longer before they’ll be able to leave.
In the meantime, as this fun video from Cofidis’ Nathan Haas shows, the riders are passing their time productively:
| Meanwhile, at Track Worlds…
Danish rider Michael Mørkøv, who had left the UAE Tour the day of the lockdown to compete at the Track World Championships in Berlin, also found himself quarantined for 36 hours upon arrival. After finally being cleared to race, he won the world championship in the madison with Lasse Norman Hansen.
“From not being able to race to becoming world champion in my absolute favourite discipline is indescribable,” Mørkøv said.
| Chloe Dygert wins pursuit world title, smashes world record twice
Reigning time trial world champion Chloe Dygert (USA) put in one of the standout performances of an already remarkable track world championships by blitzing the women’s pursuit and dropping the world record twice in a single day. Dygert, 23, dropped the world record to 3:16.937, defeating her rival Lisa Brennauer (Germany) by over six seconds. Brennauer took home the silver medal.
Dygert ended the day having lowered her existing world record by over three seconds, and has an ultimate goal to get it below 3:10.
| French one-day races
Over in France, running concurrently to the opening weekend in Belgium, two 1.Pro classified one day races were also conducted.
At Saturday’s Faun-Ardeche Classic, Deceuninck-Quickstep’s Remi Cavagna struck out on his own, clinching the win with a 60km solo breakaway.
On Sunday, at the Royal Bernard Drome Classic, Australian Simon Clarke (EF Pro Cycling) sprinted for the win from a select group, pipping Warren Barguil and Vincenzo Nibali. Clarke has had a strong early season, having been second on stages at two previous races, and will be glad to go one better.
| Tour du Rwanda run and won
And in Rwanda, Africa’s most prestigious tour – the Tour du Rwanda – has just wrapped up. Last year’s champ Merhawi Kudus wasn’t back to defend his title, but another Eritrean took home the silverware – Natnael Tesfatsion, of NTT Continental Cycling Team, riding for the Eritrean national squad. Rwanda’s Moise Mugisha salvaged a somewhat disappointing race for the host nation by claiming second overall on the GC.
In case you missed it
| Shoddy and Tom Ritchey: Skipping school and building electric cars
At last year’s Eurobike, Dave Everett sat down for a chat with industry legend and all-round nice guy Tom Ritchey. Check out the video and article to get an insight into what makes Ritchey tick.
| Leaping to the pro-ranks: An 18-year-old’s run at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Last week, we announced that experienced cycling journalist José Been would be reporting for CyclingTips at some of the biggest races on the calendar. From Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, here’s her first story, taking you inside the race with 18-year-old debutant Maike van der Duin.
Today’s featured image of the second group on the road cresting the Muur van Geraardsbergen at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad comes from Kristof Ramon.